Happy Hat Day: A look at campaign hats throughout history
Dig out your favorite ball cap. It’s national hat day in America. And while caps emblazoned with professional sports logos still dominate store shelves, it’s only fitting that the most talked-about hat of the last year came straight off of the campaign trail.
First spotted in public last July, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat has become one of the most recognizable and sought-after items of the 2016 presidential election cycle. Worn fervently by Trump supporters and otherwise by trend-followers, the candidate’s tag line has transcended the political world in a variety of colors. “Over the summer I saw a few 20-somethings around my neighborhood in New York wearing them,” says MSNBC political analyst Steve Kornacki. “I have a feeling they weren’t actually Trump supporters, but something about the proudly out-of-date style gave them ironic appeal, I guess. I think Donald Trump inadvertently created a product for hipsters.”
The ubiquitous hat is far from the first such accessory to enter presidential politics. According to Harry Rubenstein of the Smithsonian Institution, campaign hats were popular attire for 19th century political clubs at campaign events such as torch-light parades. “More recently,” Rubenstein said, “candidates have passed out hats at rallies and at political events to produce a festive mood and create an effect of mass and unified support for their candidate.”
It’s at party nominating conventions, attended by enthusiastic delegates from across the country, that both official and unofficial campaign hats have taken on a life of their own. “The iconic convention hat grew out of a tradition of hat-wearing delegates adding a button or flag to their head wear until they became elaborate works of art drawing media attention,” Rubenstein added. “In more recent times, delegates learned that those who wore personal displays on their heads got more attention from the camera crews that covered the national conventions.”
That looks to be true in this election cycle, as well. Expect to see the political hat craze continue in July when Republicans and Democrats convene to nominate their candidates in Cleveland and Philadelphia respectively. In the meantime, browse this slideshow for a look at political headgear through the years.